A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson announced Monday that the PCG removed a floating barrier allegedly placed by China near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. This comes days after the PCG claimed that China had placed the floating barrier to prevent Philippine fishermen from accessing fishing grounds near the shoal, which is protected by an international arbitral agreement.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said on X (formerly known as Twitter) that:
The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal. The PCG remains committed to upholding international law, safeguarding the welfare of Filipino fisherfolk, and protecting the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters.
Tariella claimed in a Friday post that multiple Chinese military vessels were destroying coral and polluting water in an area of the South China Sea that has long been subject to territorial disputes. Then in a Saturday post, Tarriela stated:
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) strongly condemn the China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) installation of floating barrier in the Southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc (BDM), which prevents Filipino Fishing Boats (FFBs) from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities. … It was reported by the Filipino fishermen that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area.
Tarriela went on to claim that the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) hailed multiple Filipino fishermen and government vessels, alleging their presence in the area was breaking international law.
This is the latest in a lengthy history of disputes between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. In 2016, the Philippines brought the dispute before an International Tribunal, which ruled that China’s long alleged nine-dash line territorial claim was not legal and protected Filipino fishermen’s right to fish near the Scarborough Shoal. However, China rejected the ruling, continuing to allege the shoal is part of its territory. Tensions have continued with a continued US military presence in the area, supporting the Philippine government’s territorial claims. In 2021, China passed a law allowing the CCG to fire upon foreign vessels or structures in the disputed areas of the South China Sea, receiving strong condemnation from the Philippines. Later in 2021, the Philippine government lodged a diplomatic protest against China, alleging China has been deploying military vessels in the disputed area.
However, the Philippines is not the only country in dispute with China over territory in the South China Sea. Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have competing claims against China in the the South China Sea. The area is an important shipping route, rich in natural resources including oil and natural gas. It is also an ancestral fishing ground for multiple countries claiming sovereignty.
China has yet to comment on the PCG’s claims.